Leonardo da Vinci said, ‘The smallest feline is a masterpiece” and who could disagree? Facades of the toughest men become softer simply by putting them in the presence of a litter of kittens. From the moment kittens are born, their lives become a circus of adorable antics as they grow, learn and explore the world around them. We can’t seem to get enough of these precious little ones!
Kittens are Helpless at Birth
Mother cats give birth after a gestation period of about 65 days. Some mammals, such as foals, can run within mere hours of birth, but kittens are entirely dependent on their mother for weeks and undergo incredible sensory and phsyical growth during this time. Kittens are born both deaf and blind, and won’t open their eyes until 1-2 weeks of age and even then their vision will be blurry. It will take another two months before they fully develop the incredible eyesight adult cats are known for.
Also, newborn kittens are unable to regulate their body heat so snuggling for warmth is crucial in the first few weeks. The time that mothers and babies spend cuddling and nursing is an important form of bonding and beyond adorable! Orphaned kittens require additional external heat, such as a heating pad.
Tabbies, Calicos and Tuxedos, Oh My!
There are hundreds of feline color combinations, but did you know that kittens within the same litter can all be different? Cat genetics is a crazy thing. Mixed-coat litters- such as a calico, tabby, and tuxedo- are not all that uncommon, and to make matters more confusing, one litter can potentially have two different fathers! Because of the role of genetics, only 1 in every 3,000 calico cats are male and those rare few carry an extra sex chromosome, XXY, and are infertile. Orange tabby cats, on the other hand, are more likely to be male.
Blue Eyes and A Button Nose
If kittens can be born with so many different coat patterns, why are they all born with the same blue eyes? Because, similar to humans, the pigment melanin takes a while to be deposited into the iris. Cat noses, however, are entirely unique from the moment they are born. In fact, no two cats’ nosesprints are alike- just like fingerprints. This kind of makes eskimo kissing your cat even more precious, doesn’t it?
For most of us, especially here at Pets fur keeps, our pets wear many hats: they are our greatest comfort, patient listeners, our best friends, spirit lifters; just to name a few roles . Our pets often bring out the best in us, and depending on some of your resolutions, they can be wonderful motivations and inspirations to achieve your goals. So while your dog or cat probably doesn’t have their own new year’s resolution, that doesn’t mean they can’t help with yours!
Lose Weight & Exercise More: Year after year, this takes the #1 spot for most popular resolutions, and probably always will, considering 1 in 2.6 adults think they are overweight, and roughly the same percent are obese. But if you have a dog, you’ve got the best exercise partner ever. Set a goal of how far you want to walk everyday, and stick to it, but not just for yourself, for your dog: to see your pup’s eyes light up when you say ‘walk’ and grab the leash, to see his little dance as you walk out the door.
For added incentive, download the ResQWalk App (it’s free for both iPhone and Android). The app tracks the number and distance of all your walks, AND it donates money to the rescue of your choice every time you hit the pavement. Talk about motivation!
Fall in Love: Another common resolution it to fall in love or find ‘the one.’ Did you know pets can help with that too? Yup, and rescue pets have even more sway for attracting that someone special. Check out these stats from a 2014 survey of Match.com pet owners by Petsmart Charities:
- 59% of women would be more attracted to someone if they found out they rescued a pet rather than bought one
- 35% of single women have been more attracted to someone because of their pet
- 4 out of 5 singles are pet lovers
Quit Smoking: If you can’t quit for yourself, would you do it for Fido or Fluffy? According to a 2009 survey, 28% of pet owning smokers would consider quitting if they knew the smoke could harm their pets. I hope you’re one of them! The ASPCA’s Poison Control Center says “Nicotine from secondhand smoke can have effects to the nervous systems of cats and dogs. Environmental tobacco smoke has been shown to contain numerous cancer-causing compounds, making it hazardous for animals as well as humans.”
Cats who live with a smoker are 2-3 times more likely to develop cancer, including lymphoma, which kills 75% of afflicted cats in under a year. Cats with smoking families typically have nicotine and other toxins in their urine, and are especially vulnerable to oral cancers because they are constant groomers- consistently consuming the cancer-causing carcinogens from secondhand smoke (Mercola). For dogs in smoking households, their risk of lung cancer increases by 60%. Small animals and birds are also at increased risk for lung cancer, heart problems, and pneumonia (Petfinder).
So make this year count- not just for you, but for your pet, too! Best of luck with all of your resolutions and endeavors for 2015.
No matter how gentle or docile your cat is, chances are you’ve got a few battle scars from run-ins with those claws. But with a little patience, practice, and good guidance (which we’re about to give you!) you can master the often-despised task of nail trimming. It is a wonderful skill that all cat guardians should learn because it creates a happier home.
Regular trimming ensures that your cat’s claws won’t overgrow and curl under and into the paw pad. Ingrown nails are extremely painful and can cause nasty infections. Also, your cat will be less likely to get caught on fabric or screens, and it will lessen the level of destruction caused by unwanted scratching on clothing or furniture (or, well, people!).
Many cat parents are intimidated by the idea of trimming, but once you know what to do and where to cut, it’s pretty simple. First, let’s get familiar with the structure of the toe, and why claws are so important.
Anatomy of a Paw
Part of the reason cats are so light-footed is that they walk on their tippy toes; this is called digitigrade movement. Humans, primates, and bears walk fairly flat footed, which is known as plantigrade. Because cats are digitigrade, their claws are crucial for comfortable locomotion and balance. Unlike human fingernails which attach to flesh, cats’ nails grow directly from the bone. When cats are declawed, part of this bone is removed in order to stop it from growing again. Afterwards, they are left to walk on what is left of the amputated digit. Imagine if someone removed part of your foot, how difficult and painful would it be to walk?
When at rest, a cat’s claws are safely sheathed and tucked away. When he or she wants to utilize them -either for defense, play, or climbing- they protract the nails outward using ligaments and tendons. Cats have four regular claws on each paw, plus a dewclaw that is set back on the inner side of each front paw, sort of like a thumb. The dewclaw is awkward: it hangs loosely, doesn’t touch the ground, and is considered a vestigial limb, one that has lost most or all function that their ancestors once used it for. You should trim this claw anyway because it still grows; you don’t want it become ingrown and infected.
Making them comfortable
A cat who has never had her nails trimmed before will be pretty startled if you just hold her down, grab her paws, and start clipping away. For this reason, it is important that your cat is familiar with the sensation of having her paws touched and handled, so begin doing this as soon as possible. The younger you start, the easier it will be in the long run, so if you adopt a kitten, don’t delay on getting her comfortable with this. But that doesn’t mean an adult can’t get used to it even if you haven’t done it before. Start by stroking her paw, then gently holding it. If she pulls away, allow her to, but keep a loose hold. Eventually, start to put pressure on the toes to extend the nail from the sheath. It is also a good idea to also allow your cat to see and smell the nail clippers ahead of time. These techniques are best done when your cat is already in a relaxed or sleepy mood. Be patient and don’t get frustrated if she needs some time.
Let’s Get Trimming
Once they allow you to handle the paw without fretting, you can start to trim. Make sure you have the proper tool: a trimmer made especially for cats. These are inexpensive and sold at all pet stores. Gently grasp the paw between your thumb and index finger, putting a tiny bit of pressure on the first digit to protract the nail. Follow the diagram, and remember that you only want to trim off the ‘hook’ of the nail, nothing more. If you follow this rule of thumb, you’ll greatly eliminate your chances of cutting the quick. Consider buying a clotting agent, known as styptic powder, to keep on hand in case you cut too close- just apply it to the nail and the bleeding will stop. Corn starch works, too.
Keep in mind, not every cat or their guardian will be able to make it through a complete nail trim in a single session. Consider keeping the trimmers readily available in an area where you frequently find your cat relaxed, so you can snip a few here and there. Even if it takes you a week to get them all done, that’s perfectly fine. If you really feel uncomfortable with this task, ask your vet, groomer, or adoption agency to show you how, or you can usually have it done for a small fee/donation of $7-10. A full set of nail trimming should be done once or twice a month.
Most people are aware that many, many animals are euthanized each year because there aren’t enough people adopting them, and allowing your pet to have even one litter of kittens or puppies takes away the chances of those in shelters. Spaying and neutering is an essential step in preventing further animal homelessness, and every pet should be fixed as early as possible.
Cats typically become sexually mature around six months of age, but this can happen as young as four months. Spay/neuter surgeries are traditionally done around six months of age, but can safely be done much earlier with many benefits. Although not all veterinarians are trained or comfortable in performing pediatric spay/neutering (also called prepubescent or juvenile spay/neuter), the procedure is supported by the ASPCA, American Humane, Petsmart Charities, and the American Veterinary Medical Association. Every year, more and more clinics are offering the procedure.
Pediatric spay, which refers to any procedure performed before 6 months of age and as young as 2 months or 2 pounds, reduces the risk of accidental pregnancies (one healthy, adoptable pet is killed in a shelter every 11 seconds, so why take a chance?) Additionally, both the surgery and recovery time is shorter in younger animals, and for females, performing the surgery prior to the first heat cycle “nearly eliminates the risk of breast cancer and totally prevents uterine infections and uterine cancer,” according to America Humane.
Those apprehensive about the procedure cite various concerns, including obesity, stunted growth, and urinary tract issues. However, studies over the past two decades have disproven any increased occurrence of these in animals who were spayed under 6 months of age.
Claims of short term problems have also proved to be rather inconsequential. People for Animals (PFA), a high volume spay clinic in Hillside, New Jersey published a study in 2012 of 963 cats and dogs who underwent pediatric spay/neuter. Of these, 97.5% had no behavioral or physical concerns within 10 days of the surgery. Minor complications, such as temporary change of appetite, mild infection at incision site, and coughing/sneezing, were noted in 2.5% of the patients. Major complications were reported in only 0.8% of patients, and not all of these complications were due to surgery. PFA’s conclusion from the study was “Early age spay/neuter at People for Animals clinics is safe and is not associated with significant postoperative complaints.”
Of course, as with any surgeries, post-operative monitoring is required, and only healthy animals should undergo the procedure. Whether used in rescue, Trap-Neuter-Return situations, or for pets already in homes, pediatric spay/neuter is both the smarter method of sterilization, and a critical tool that helps us to end pet overpopulation and be more responsible in our care of cats and dogs.